Topic: Groundwater



Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground, though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.

A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

Blog: Going with the flow – How aquifer recharge reduces flood risk

On a small scale, aquifers — subsurface natural basins — have been recharged with flood waters from extreme storms for decades. Now, a new Department of Water Resources (DWR) assessment shows how Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, can help reduce flood risk and boost groundwater supplies across large areas of land. … In partnership with the Merced Irrigation District, Sustainable Conservation, and others, DWR experts analyzed how this would work in the Merced River —a 145-mile-long tributary of the San Joaquin River. The Merced River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley, could be much more vulnerable to heavy flooding as storms intensify.

Aquafornia news Valley Voice

South Valley in water crisis as systems fail

Small Valley communities are drying up. The latest town to find itself waterless is Tooleville, east of Exeter on Highway 65. In the middle of July, with temperatures soaring and the intense Valley summer in full swing, residents of the town found the well they rely on was delivering just a dribble where it was working at all. With the aid of Self-Help Enterprises, the town is now dependent on a pair of water tanks and costly daily deliveries of trucked-in water.

Aquafornia news Capital and Main

California quietly stored 500,000 pounds of contaminated soil in Jurupa Valley. Then residents found out.

For four years, thousands of soil samples and paint chips taken from homes, schools, parks and parkways near the former Exide battery facility have been stored inside shipping containers at a Superfund site. Without consulting local officials or residents, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control transported the samples to the Stringfellow facility, an Inland Empire quarry that once served as an industrial dumping ground — one that leaked toxic chemicals into groundwater and soil over several decades.

Aquafornia news NPR

Faced with drought, a wine region in central California looks to develop a spaceport

The drought in the West and climate change have smaller cities rethinking their economies, especially if their main business is agriculture. On California’s Central Coast, one town is trying to diversify beyond its main moneymaker – grapes and wine. … Lynn Hamilton [a professor of agribusiness at nearby Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo] says … “The attitude here, it seems to be – until recently – that, oh, we’re just a rainy season away from being saved. And I think people are now starting to realize that that’s not true any longer.”

Aquafornia news The Business Journal

How a Madera farmer fought a new groundwater fee — and (sort of) won

A proposed fee system to manage irrigated land in Madera County has sparked a successful protest, leaving one groundwater agency unfunded and at least one farmer claiming the process was done with minimal notice. … Three newly formed groundwater sustainable agencies — Chowchilla Subbasin, the Madera Subbasin and the Delta Mendota Subbasin — are left with no funding for four ongoing groundwater projects required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It’s the County of Madera that oversees the land, said Stephanie Anagnason, director of water and natural resources for Madera County.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Effort to bring South Fork Kern River water to valley farmland buffeted by lawsuits, called a “joke”

Drought cut short a pilot program to bring South Fork Kern River water through Lake Isabella and down 60 miles to farmland northwest of Bakersfield. Now, a raft of lawsuits could upend the environmental impact report in support of the project, which has been a goal of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District since it bought the old Onyx Ranch in 2013. The project was doomed from the start, said one board member of the water district that led the lawsuit charge.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Whitewater rafting from ridgetop to river mouth: seeing the multiple benefits of California water

The forests and meadows of the Sierra Nevada, Coast Range, and Cascade Mountains are the source waters for much of the Sacramento River Basin and the State of California. Healthy headwaters ensure increased water supply reliability and reduced flooding risks, improved water quality, reduced impacts from catastrophic wildfires, increased renewable energy supplies, enhanced habitat, and improved response to climate change and extreme weather.

Aquafornia news Ridgecrest Daily Independent

IWVGA spending $6.4M for rights to 750 acre-feet of imported water

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has signed an agreement to spend $6,396,000 to buy the rights to 750 acre-feet of state water per year to import from southwestern Kings County. A nonbinding letter of intent signed Tuesday and obtained by the Daily Independent lays out the terms between the IWVGA and an entity called Utica LJL, LLC to purchase water assets. Utica LJL is in the early stages of developing a site along Interstate 5 about four miles south of Kettleman City to build gas stations, restaurants, motels, an industrial park, and farmland.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Farmland in transition—The San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s agricultural heartland and at the center of the state’s water challenges. As the region brings its groundwater basins into balance under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), over half a million acres of irrigated farmland may need to come out of production. At a virtual event last week, PPIC researchers and a panel of local experts moderated by Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center, discussed how to manage this massive transition while reaping the greatest benefits from idled land and mitigating air quality concerns.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Flood irrigation has positive water impacts

Drive by a flooded almond orchard in the countryside surrounding Manteca, Ripon and Escalon and your first thought might be outrage.  After all, California is slipping deeper into a third year of a devastating drought.  Looks, however, can be deceiving.  What looks like a waste of water is actually helping keep water flowing to your home to wash clothes, drink, flush toilets, shower or bathe, and wash dishes and such if you live in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Desert groundwater agency to pay $8,500 per acre foot for valley water rights

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority in eastern Kern County has signed a “letter of intent” to buy the rights to 750 acre feet of state water for $6,396,000 from a State Water Project contractor in Kings County. The purchase is part of the authority’s plan to bring that overdrafted groundwater basin into balance. The seller is Utica J.L.J. LLC, which purchased the Jackson Ranch and is developing a truck stop and industrial center on 400 acres at Utica Avenue and Interstate 5, just south of Kettleman City.

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Aquafornia news California Department of Water Resources

News release: Public comment period opens for additional resubmitted groundwater sustainability plans with ‘incomplete’ determinations

On January 28, 2022, the Department released eight Incomplete determinations on groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). These basins were given 180 days to address deficiencies and resubmit their revised GSPs to the Department for review. The revised GSPs in response to the Incomplete determination have been resubmitted to the Department and are now posted on the DWR SGMA Portal. These plans are open to public comment for 60 days after the posted date.

Aquafornia news American Rivers

Blog: Five things you should know about California’s drought

With typically arid springs and summers, droughts are normal in California… but not at this intensity: Climate change is intensifying drought across the state, which puts the state in a precarious position that compromises water supplies for drinking and agriculture, increases wildfire risk, and threatens fish and wildlife. … We can adapt to future droughts through reducing our water use and switching to more sustainable water uses. We can expand our existing usage of recycled water, replenish our groundwater aquifers and increase our flexibility in crop and municipal uses. 

Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Settlement blocks planned federal fracking leases in California

Leasing for new oil and gas drilling on federal land in central California is temporarily blocked under a settlement announced Monday between the state and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. … Fracking is the process of injecting a high-pressure mix of mostly water with some sand and chemical additives into rock to create or expand fractures that allow oil and gas to be extracted. It’s a controversial practice due to concerns about the injected chemicals contaminating groundwater.

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Aquafornia news E&E News

California’s megadrought is worse than you think

When Maria Regalado Garcia tried to wash the dishes in her California home one recent morning, only a trickle of water emerged from the kitchen faucet. Other taps in her Tooleville house in rural Tulare County ran similarly dry. … Garcia and her neighbors, who intermittently lose tap water at home, are among those most affected by a historic drought that’s blanketed the West, scorched California and caused a growing list of water troubles for residents and farmers.

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Aquafornia news NASA

Blog: Tracking deluge and drought through soil moisture

After abundant rain and flooding in the Mississippi Valley and other regions in 2019, drought returned to much of the United States in 2021-22. From wet to dry, both extremes have implications for soils and the crops they support. The opposing extremes were detected by NASA satellites. But it was a novel tool—the Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA) product—that integrated this satellite data into a format that was particularly useful to people. With Crop-CASMA’s high-resolution, timely information on soil moisture, farmers and agriculture managers could track the areas of high and low moisture more closely.

Aquafornia news KSBY - San Luis Obispo

Report revealing hundreds of failing water districts in California

A state audit found that nearly one million Californians have contaminated drinking water. The report found that 920,000 people could face health issues from unsafe drinking water. The California State Auditor found there are 370 failing water systems in California that are putting almost a million residents at risk. … The audit criticizes the State Water Resources Control Board for a lack of urgency in getting funding to these smaller systems, which often rely on well water.

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Aquafornia news Capital and Main

A Napa filmmaker looked and found Roundup, the weedkiller tied to cancer, ‘everywhere’

Early one winter morning, as Brian Lilla was riding his bike through Napa, California’s hills and meadows, he spotted farmworkers driving ATVs through rows of vines. They hauled huge canisters of the weedkiller Roundup. As the workers sprayed vines, a chemical smell shot through the air. … In Children of the Vine, the 54-year-old documentary filmmaker explores the use of glyphosate from the time Roundup hit the market in the 1970s to Monsanto’s creation of “Roundup Ready” genetically modified seeds in the 1990s to its present legal woes and shattered public trust. But even now, with at least 20 countries having banned or limited the use of the herbicide, Lilla was shocked to find out how ubiquitous the chemical is in our daily lives, and how trace amounts of glyphosate appears even in certified organic foods and wine (which by definition are grown without pesticides or herbicides). 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: CA water agency blasted over lags in fixing unsafe drinking water

California’s state auditor blasted the agency responsible for helping poor communities fix their tainted water systems Tuesday, saying the it has tied up the process in red tape and forced nearly 1 million residents to wait months or years for help. Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden said the State Water Resources Control Board takes an average of 33 months to approve grants and loans requested by these communities to clean up water systems contaminated by excess amounts of nitrate, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. … Nitrate, the result of farm fertilizer seeping into the water supply, can cause numerous health issues for infants. Excessive levels of arsenic can cause problems with skin and circulatory systems, and elevate the risk of cancer.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Latest blow in Boswell-Vidovich water war could bring state control over region’s groundwater

The latest blow in an ongoing water war between two Kings County agricultural titans may put control of the entire region’s groundwater into state hands. The J.G. Boswell Farming Company and Sandridge Partners, controlled by John Vidovich, have been scuffling over water in court, on ditch banks and even in the air with accusations on both sides of various types of water skulduggery. On July 22, the Southwest Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, controlled by Vidovich, voted to approve the region’s groundwater plan subject to an addendum that state representatives warned — during the meeting – could nullify the plan and lead to state control over groundwater.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Water-saving hugels add privacy to drought-tolerant landscape

When Elana O’Brien decided to eliminate the front lawn outside her Pasadena home, she had three goals: water conservation, increased privacy and a view more natural than a city street and the seasonal decorations in her neighbor’s yard. Smothering her 850-square-foot lawn with cardboard and mulch — a.k.a. sheet mulching — wasn’t enough, O’Brien said. She wanted to add some height and contour to her yard, and she found the answer with — literally — a lot of sticks and stones, using a process known as hugelkultur. … The idea behind hugelkultur is that the logs help collect and retain moisture and encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the soil …

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: South valley groundwater managers to use $10 million to protect community water and look for ways to retire up to 100,000 acres of farmland

Three San Joaquin Valley water agencies are gearing up to spend $10 million each in grant funding from the state Department of Conservation to retire or repurpose farmland. Valley agencies that have received grants so far include the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Pixley Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) and Madera County. … Estimates are that 100,000 acres of farmland will need to be taken out of production if the subbasin is to comply with state law and reach groundwater sustainability, said Reyn Akiona, watershed coordinator for the Tule subbasin.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Drought is decimating my farm. How California should help us

As I drive across my family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley, it feels as if I’m traveling on a chessboard. I cross one square with crops and then another without crops — our fields that must lay fallow. Our farm’s crops have been decimated by the drought. Last year, reduced water deliveries in the state led to 395,000 acres of cropland being idled, according to UC Merced researchers, and about 8,750 agricultural workers lost their jobs. … Without enough water, farmers in California can’t survive. The state’s aging water supply infrastructure has not kept up with the growth of the state. 
-Written by Joe L. Del Bosque, CEO and president of the family-owned Del Bosque Farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aquafornia news Merced Sun-Star

Residents of Merced County CA town hit with water shortage

Residents in the Merced County town of Ballico are advised not to drink the water after a mechanical failure at the well which supplies the community. According to Tricia Wathen, section chief of the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water Central California, the board was notified Saturday that a Ballico Community Services District well failed on Friday afternoon. Wathen said the problem is believed to be mechanical, and is expected to be repaired once parts are available. … The community worked with Merced County Office of Emergency Services and a local school to connect water to the system from the school’s irrigation well.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Opinion: A bad bill undermines cooperation on groundwater

The ink is barely dry on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and here comes more legislation to redo what has been the most significant change in California water law in over 100 years. The California Department of Water Resources has not finished evaluating Groundwater Sustainability Plans submitted by local agencies under SGMA, which established a cooperative framework to protect California’s groundwater resources. But already legislation—Assembly Bill 2201 by Steve Bennett, D-Ventura—seeks to change SGMA in ways that would bring unnecessary confusion and disruption into the process. 
-Written by Danny Merkley, director of water resources for the California Farm Bureau; and Jack Gualco, president of The Gualco Group Inc.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

“Not here for some agrarian fantasy”

[W]hen you’re driving down the highway in Southern Arizona, sometimes you’ll drive right through a field so green, you’d think you were in Coastal California. … [Anastasia Rabin's] well hasn’t run dry yet, but several of her neighbors and many people in the region where she lives have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to deepen their wells or dig new ones altogether. … Many in the area put the blame on a dairy and out-of-state pecan farmers moving in and using the land in ways it wasn’t meant to be used. Mostly, they’re using lots of water, digging deeper than the residents and small farmers who were already here, and literally changing the landscape.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Climate change and drought can be felled by beavers

Millions of highly skilled environmental engineers stand ready to make our continent more resilient to climate change. They restore wetlands that absorb carbon, store water, filter pollution and clean and cool waters for salmon and trout. They are recognized around the world for helping to reduce wildfire risk. Scientists have valued their environmental services at close to $179,000 per square mile annually. And they work for free. Our ally in mitigating and adapting to climate change across the West could be a paddle-tailed rodent: the North American beaver.
-Written by Chris Jordan, mathematical biology and systems monitoring program manager at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center; and Emily Fairfax, an assistant professor of environmental science and resource management at Cal State Channel Islands.

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Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Exeter ends nitrate drinking water warning

Exeter officially put an end to their drinking water warning after swapping well 6’s production that included high nitrate levels with well 9 that was recently rehabilitated. The drinking water warning due to high levels of nitrates from well 6 in Exeter has been lifted. Women who are pregnant and infants could safely drink the city’s water as of July 14, ending the two month warning period. The warning was lifted after the city’s alternative well – well 9 – became fully operational. It had been undergoing rehabilitation work to prepare for high demand in the summer months. While well 9 was offline, all other wells had to remain online in order to meet peak hour water pressure demands. 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: Land transitions and dust in the San Joaquin Valley

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater users to bring their basins into balance over the next two decades. In the San Joaquin Valley, this will mean taking more than 500,000 acres of agricultural land out of intensive irrigated production. Among other issues, this could potentially lead to air quality impacts if the lands become new sources of dust, especially windblown dust, which can have numerous negative short- and long-term health and environmental impacts. In addition, the changing climate may exacerbate risks as warmer temperatures can dry out soils and increase dust emissions.

Aquafornia news Sonoma Index-Tribune

New rules for well permits in Sonoma County proposed

The Board of Supervisors will consider new standards for well permits at their meeting Aug. 9 in response to California case law to protect rivers and other “public trust resources,” according to a July 11 press release. The county will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendment to the county’s well ordinance, which would create new guidelines for Permit Sonoma’s evaluation of environmental impact to drill new or replacement groundwater wells. The ordinance may effect approximately one-third of well permit applications sent to Permit Sonoma and new wells may be subject to hundreds of dollars in fees and new equipment based on the proposal.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Exploring the potential for water-limited agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

The rollout of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is altering the state’s agricultural landscape. As groundwater sustainability measures are implemented and water scarcity increases, at least half a million acres are projected to come out of irrigated production in the San Joaquin Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland. Rather than widespread land idling—which comes with unintended consequences such as dust, weeds, pests, and soil degradation—a switch from summer irrigated crops to winter crops produced with limited water (including winter cereals and forage crops, among others) might keep some of this land in production.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Agencies looking to “Plan B” as more San Joaquin Valley towns on brink of going dry and emergency water suppliers are tapped out

Groundwater levels are dropping and domestic wells throughout the San Joaquin Valley are going dry as California’s third year of drought grinds on. That includes entire towns, such as East Orosi and Tooleville in Tulare County, which both went dry last week. It’s bad. But it may get worse. Area water suppliers are “locking down” and may not have enough to share, equipment is in short supply and so are people to get the water to those in need.

Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Deep wells under Stanislaus could store climate-harming gas

A company seeks to drill two very deep wells in Stanislaus County to capture some of the carbon dioxide involved in climate change. Aemetis Inc. would sink the wells at its ethanol plant in Keyes and another coming soon to Riverbank. They would be perhaps 8,000 feet deep, far below groundwater sources, and would store close to 40 million tons of compressed gas over 20 years. The $250 million project would put the county at the forefront of the effort to sequester CO2 that otherwise would trap heat in the atmosphere. Experts say climate change is already disrupting agriculture, raising sea levels and making storms and wildfires more extreme.

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

New Central Coast nonprofit focuses on water quality, access

A new nonprofit is emerging along the Central Coast with its sights set on ensuring clean, safe drinking water and access to waterways for all, particularly those in disadvantaged communities. The fledgling nonprofit is called Waterkeeper Monterey, formerly known as Monterey Coastkeeper. Monterey Waterkeeper’s Executive Director Chelsea Tu … told the Herald this week that Waterkeeper will be working with the State Water Resources Control Boards, often just called Water Boards, to limit levels of contaminants in drinking water, mostly in well water that doesn’t have the benefit of municipal treatment facilities that urban areas of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties have.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Second Tulare County town goes dry as water tables plummet in drought

The town of Tooleville in Tulare County is once again without water. The town, which has struggled for years with dropping groundwater levels and contamination issues, saw its wells dry up over the weekend.  On July 15, residents called nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability reporting very low water pressure and some with no water at all, said Elvia Olea, policy advocate for Leadership Counsel.  This is the second town in Tulare County to lose water this summer. East Orosi, about 30 miles north of Tooleville, was without water for 24 hours when one of its two wells went down July 12, according to news reports. A pump was installed and restored water to East Orosi.

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Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: Valley residents key concern is having safe drinking water

Growing up in Dinuba, my family and I worried about whether the water coming out of our tap was safe to drink. We knew that our groundwater was likely contaminated by nitrates and other toxic chemicals from agriculture. Like many other immigrant families, we would fill up three 5-gallon containers of water at a vending machine station on a weekly basis. To this day, we still don’t trust that the water in our home is safe to drink.
-Written by Emmanuel Agraz Torres, an ambassador with California Environmental Voters Education Fund and a student at California State University, Fresno.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Editorial: Ban new gas stations? There are better ways for L.A. to ditch fossil fuels

To be clear, there are good reasons to end construction of new gas stations, which, beyond fueling climate change, also have a tendency to become costly environmental cleanup sites themselves. The underground storage tanks they use can contaminate soil and groundwater and pose risks to drinking water supplies for years after they close. A statewide 2021 assessment by the State Water Resources Control Board found 136 improperly abandoned underground fuel storage tank facilities, many of them old gas stations, including a dozen in disadvantaged communities and within 1,000 feet of a municipal water supply well.

Aquafornia news NPR - WHYY

Climate change means some coastal groundwater may soon be too salty to drink. What can cities do?

Picture the ocean shore, but underground, there’s a line where the freshwater and the seawater meet, called the salt line. This salt line moves with the tides. But rising sea levels and an increase of people living by the shore tapping into freshwater underground can also pull more saltwater from the ocean toward the land. … [P]laces all around the U.S. and the world are now starting to study this problem. … California is going through drought conditions. Aridification refers to the climate getting drier in the long term, not just in seasonal drought cycles.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Vulnerable domestic wells will be focus of $10 million farmland retirement grant in Madera County

Three San Joaquin Valley water agencies are gearing up to spend $10 million each in grant funding from the state Department of Conservation to retire or repurpose farmland. Valley agencies that received grants so far include the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Pixley Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainbility Agency (GSA) and Madera County. SJV Water will look at how each agency plans to use its $10 million in separate articles.

Aquafornia news Mendocino Voice

Mendocino County BOS looks to regulate private extraction, sale of groundwater

After a long back-and-forth on Tuesday afternoon, all but one Mendocino County supervisor approved a draft of a water hauling ordinance created by concerned community members.  The ordinance draft will move on to the planning commission for review, despite lingering questions around how to fund it. Board Chair Ted Williams voted against the ordinance because of those concerns. The ordinance’s purpose is to protect the county’s groundwater resources by regulating the sale and transport of groundwater from private wells. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

On a brutal summer day, one California town ran out of water. Then the fire came

There is a state mandate to consolidate [small] water systems with larger nearby communities by 2024. But that wasn’t soon enough for East Orosi, an unincorporated Tulare County hamlet southeast of Fresno. The water went off Tuesday afternoon. A temporary fix allowed the water to run sporadically on Wednesday. By then, a family had lost their home to a fire they had no water to fight. Children had spent a day scrambling to keep pets and livestock from dying. And in this community that already depends on bottled water for drinking, everyone knew the taps could soon go dry again. 

Aquafornia news Sierra Club

Blog: Mapping a state’s secret water

To survive this climate-changed future, the state needs to capture those torrents—and the tools to do so are right beneath our feet. In California, hidden under the ground are aquifers that have the capacity to store an estimated 1.3 billion acre-feet of water—26 times all of the state’s reservoirs combined. All California needs to do is guide the floods caused by torrential rainfall into the ground, instead of out to sea. … Here’s the problem: We don’t know where to build this infrastructure. Because we can’t see groundwater, our understanding of it—where it is, which direction it flows, and how it connects to the surface—is limited.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Can dowsers help us through the drought?

He walked to and fro, holding the rods parallel to the ground and several inches apart. Every once in a while, the rods crossed. In each spot where they did, he bent down and planted a little blue flag and said that’s where I’d likely find my bad pipe. “I thought that was voodoo,” I said politely. … Well, this piqued my interest, and I began to do a little digging of my own. Is there anything to dowsing, and if so, might a battalion of dowsers help get us through the drought by identifying underground aquifers and streams?
-Written by Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times columnist.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: New state park could help California answer climate change

Los Angeles County has 25 state parks, recreation areas, historical sites and beaches. There are 24 more in Orange and San Diego counties. But in the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley, which stretches from the Tehachapis to the northern edge of San Joaquin County, there are only 15 state sites, and only five of those are state parks.  That is about to change. In the budget just signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, enough money has been dedicated to start creating California’s first new state park since Fort Ord Dunes in Monterey County joined the system more than a decade ago.
-Written by Julie Rentner, president of River Partners, a nonprofit conservation organization; and Assemblymember Adam Gray, a Democrat representing Merced County and part of Stanislaus County, including Dos Rios Ranch.

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Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Fissures appearing in southern Arizona as aquifers decline

Cities and agricultural operations across the West put intense pressure on groundwater supplies. In some rural regions, few rules govern how, when and how much water can be pumped. That’s true in rural southern Arizona, where wells are drying up as cities grow, large farms move in and the megadrought continues. … [Tara] Morrow and her neighbors are seeing the water wells they use for their basic needs – cooking, cleaning and showering – dry up as large farming operations move in and have to drill deeper for groundwater.

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Aquafornia news Greeley Tribune

How this tribe survives in Colorado’s worst drought region with as little as 10% of its hard-won water supply

Ute Mountain Ute irrigation manager Michael Vicenti looked out from his reservation — toward the Navajos’ sacred “winged rock” and across the arid Southwest — then focused in front of his feet on three-foot-high stalks of blue corn. They stood straight. But these growing stalks, established on one inch of water per week, now would require twice that much. And Vicenti winced, confiding doubts about whether Ute farming can endure in a hotter, drier world. Each evening he calls operators of McPhee Reservoir to set the flow into a 39-mile clay canal — the Utes’ only source of water — and makes a difficult choice. Either he saves scarce water or he saves corn. 

Aquafornia news The Ukiah Daily Journal

Opinion: Proposed law allows extra regulation of wells

The governor of our state and the state legislature are getting into the act of exercising never-before-seen public control of privately owned groundwater wells. Assemblyman Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) and representatives from Community Water Center (CWC) are sponsoring legislation that would change the way new and expanded water wells are approved in California, and focusing on areas that are experiencing rapid decline in groundwater reserves. … Bennett’s bill, AB 2201, took a step forward last week as it survived a fight in a California state Senate committee.
-Written by Jim Shields, editor and publisher of the Mendocino County Observer and district manager of the Laytonville County Water District.

Aquafornia news Downey Brand LLP

Blog: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses RCRA citizen suit decision affecting drinking water supply agencies in California River Watch v. City of Vacaville

In a significant course-correction, a Ninth Circuit panel recently revisited its prior opinion in California River Watch v. City of Vacaville, (14 F.4th 1076 (9th Cir. 2021) (“Vacaville I”)), where the Court previously held the City of Vacaville (“City”) could be liable for transporting a solid waste (hexavalent chromium) in its drinking water supply simply due to that contaminant being present in groundwater withdrawn for water supply purposes. On a denial of a rehearing en banc, the same three-judge panel who issued the Vacaville I opinion issued a new order and opinion withdrawing and superseding the former opinion, now affirming summary judgment in favor of the City.

Aquafornia news Santa Clarita Valley Signal

SCV Water wins $65.9M due to Whittaker-Bermite water contamination

Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency officials announced Tuesday a court has awarded the agency $65.9 million for cleanup of local groundwater contamination from the Whittaker-Bermite site.   According to officials, the most recent news is the latest in a series of legal actions and settlements as a result of the Whittaker-Bermite site being used as a former munition testing and manufacturing site, resulting in contamination issues, which include perchlorate. Since 2007, when the last multi-million-dollar settlement was agreed to, more wells have become impacted by perchlorate and groundwater contaminants, and as a result the impacted wells needed to be removed from service until they could be treated.

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Aquafornia news Petaluma Argus Courier

Oak Hill neighbors express concerns as Petaluma plans for new well

Petaluma residents neighboring a planned groundwater well project in the Oak Hill Park area are asking city leaders for more transparency and review before approving its construction, following concerns that the area’s foundation may be too fragile. The Oak Hill Municipal Well Project would install a well on a 5.58-acre, city-owned property at 35 Park Avenue, as city officials look to offset the need for purchased water and increase the reliability and diversity of local water supplies during the ongoing drought. But neighbors are concerned the well will have a negative impact on the environment and make way for sinkholes.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Farmers who helped sink the Friant-Kern Canal reject a fee to pay off their share of the fix

Farmers in southern Tulare County on June 30 soundly rejected a proposed land fee that would have helped pay a lump sum settlement of  $125 million toward fixing the Friant-Kern Canal, which has sunk because of excessive groundwater pumping. The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency agreed in 2020 to pay a portion of the cost to repair the canal to Friant Water Authority. … The settlement agreement between Eastern Tule and Friant laid out two payment options. The GSA would either pay a lump sum of $125 million by the end of 2022, or $200 million over the next decade through pumping fees charged to its farmers.

Aquafornia news Herald and News

As wells run dry, Klamath County residents depend on a state program that trucks in water

Rhonda Nyseth’s well dried up on Sept. 15, 2021, nine months after she bought her house in Klamath Falls. … Last summer, she helped oversee the distribution of more than 100 water tanks, each holding 500-gallons, to residents in Klamath County with empty wells. Neighbors saw their wells dry up, but she thought if hers still had water by Sept. 1, after the heavy agricultural irrigation season, she wouldn’t be personally affected by the ongoing drought. Just a few weeks later, she was on the free water delivery list. She is among hundreds of people relying on weekly water deliveries through a state and county water program established to deal with the county’s third year of drought. 

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Aquafornia news Fresh Plaza

California pistachio growers face more water challenges

The next six weeks, California pistachios will be on close watch around how much–if any, the current drought in the state is affecting its growth or “nut fill.” … So while some growers are located in areas with good groundwater and/or are receiving some supply of surface water, others have zero surface water and also limited sources of groundwater. … At the same time, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is starting to be implemented. This legislation, which passed in 2014, requires that all groundwater basins in California be sustainable and agencies were formed to ensure compliance with the act.

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Aquafornia news High Country News

Can Arizona citizens use the tools of democracy to preserve the state’s dwindling water?

On a sunny morning in southern Arizona this spring, members of the Arizona Water Defenders gathered at a park in the small town of Douglas to answer residents’ questions about water — and to collect signatures for a citizen-led ballot initiative that would, for the first time, regulate the region’s aquifer. …The Arizona Water Defenders, a grassroots group, was formed in March 2021 by southeastern Arizona residents who were concerned about local wells going dry and increasingly visible ground fissures and land subsidence. … [I]n recent years, as large-scale dairy and nut producers have bought land in the area and drilled deep new wells, water table drawdown has become more noticeable and worrisome. 

Aquafornia news Monterey Herald

Recycled water meeting Monterey Peninsula needs

Monterey Peninsula water officials are reporting that not only did they meet the obligation to provide the agreed-upon amount of water from the Pure Water Monterey water recycling project, they were able to bank more than 100 acre-feet in groundwater reserve. Pure Water Monterey — a project of Monterey One Water, the area’s wastewater service provider — takes recycled water that has been treated to a potable level and in a joint effort with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District injects it into the Seaside Groundwater Basin for later extraction. 

Aquafornia news Press Enterprise

New water plant in Menifee removes salt, fights drought

A plant that removes salt from water is now running in Menifee, giving officials another tool to reduce their reliance on imported water as California’s drought continues. The Eastern Municipal Water District opened its third groundwater desalination plant, the Perris II Groundwater Desalination Facility, on Thursday, June 23. The plant will remove salt from underground water basins tapped by wells in Perris — nearly 5.4 million gallons of water per day, according to the water district. 

Aquafornia news KQED

See a map of Bay Area hazardous sites at risk from rising seas

More than 900 hazardous sites — power plants, sewage treatment plants, refineries, cleanup areas and other facilities — across California could be inundated with ocean water and groundwater by the end of the century, according to climate scientists at UCLA and UC Berkeley. … [UCLA’s Lara] Cushing and UC Berkeley’s Rachel Morello-Frosch, both environmental health scientists, last year launched an interactive tool, Toxic Tides, mapping California’s hazardous sites that could be inundated by sea level rise. … The researchers also used federal groundwater data to examine how rising ocean water would drive freshwater up from the ground.

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Aquafornia news Daily Democrat

Yolo County groundwater may reach levels close to previous significant drought

Due to the lack of surface water available in the region this year, the Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Agency is currently forecasting that fall groundwater elevations in Yolo County will be close to the 1976-77 drought. The 1976-77 drought is the most significant drought on record for groundwater levels and is used by the Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Agency (YGSA) as a minimum threshold for the groundwater sustainability plan.

Aquafornia news The Nevada Independent

Nevada state commission affirms environmental permit for Thacker Pass lithium mine

In a hearing Tuesday, the State Environmental Commission affirmed a contested water pollution control permit for the Thacker Pass lithium mine, a procedural step forward for a project that has faced concerns from several environmental groups, Native American tribes and local ranchers. The state permit, issued by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection in February, would allow the mine to proceed if it meets certain requirements. Among those requirements are measures to prevent tailings, the byproducts of ore, from contaminating the environment, should water seep through the waste materials, which will contain chemicals used to process and extract lithium. 

Aquafornia news Public News Service

Bill moves forward to lock more carbon in the soil

California has seen a lot of proposals to reduce carbon emissions; now a plan to scrub existing pollution is moving forward in the Legislature. Assembly Bill 2649, which just passed the State Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Wednesday, sets a big goal: to remove 60 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year by 2030, all by harnessing nature. Ellie Cohen, CEO of the Climate Center, a statewide advocacy group, said the plan to sequester more carbon in the ground will slow climate change and help the environment. “It helps us to hold more water when it does rain,” Cohen outlined. “It helps to replenish groundwater. It supports biodiversity …”

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Aquafornia news TurnTo23 - Bakersfield

Delano begins the process of removing carcinogens from the soil downtown

On Wednesday, crews began using a soil vapor extraction system to remove the pollutants from the soil under downtown Delano. … “We are also concerned that there is PCE in the top layers of the groundwater and that is also at extremely high levels, thousands of times above the state standards. So the concern is that if it does reach the municipal water supply, that’s going to be very hard to remove, and very dangerous for folks and extremely expensive,” said [Ingrid Brostrom, the assistant director for Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment].

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California well water bill survives state Senate committee

A bill which would change the way groundwater wells are approved in California took a step forward Wednesday as it survived a fight in a California state Senate committee. The legislation was introduced by Assemblymember Steve Bennett, Democrat from Ventura, and would change the way new and expanded water wells are approved in California; focusing on areas that are experiencing rapid decline in groundwater reserves.

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Aquafornia news Santa Ynez Valley News

Santa Barbara County celebrates its first significant water recycling project at Waller Park

Santa Barbara County officials on Tuesday celebrated the completion of a project that will prevent 84 million gallons of water from being pumped every year from the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin. Officials gathered at Waller Park at 8:30 a.m. to cut a ribbon signifying the completion of the system that will use treated wastewater to irrigate the county-owned park at the southern edge of Santa Maria. Each year, the county has pumped about 84 million gallons of water — about 300,000 gallons per day — from its on-site well to irrigate the 65 acres of turf at the park, said Scott McGolpin, director of the County Public Works Department.

Aquafornia news JDSupra

Blog: Court upholds EIR for Kern River diversion and storage project

A California Court of Appeal held that the EIR for a public water authority’s river diversion and water storage project adequately described the unadjudicated waters to be diverted and adequately analyzed impacts to water rights and groundwater supply.  Buena Vista Water Storage District v. Kern Water Bank Authority 76 Cal. App. 5th 576 (2022). Until 2010, the Kern River had been designated by the State Water Resources Control Board as a fully appropriated stream, and only those who held an appropriative water right could divert Kern River water.  

Aquafornia news Capital Public Radio

Composting starts soon in Sacramento County. Here’s what you need to know

Last year, state legislators in California passed a law requiring municipalities to separate organic food waste from other trash. In tangible terms, that means composting is mandated. The law also requires 20% of food that would otherwise be sent to a landfill — like edible food thrown away by a grocery store at the end of the day — be recovered for human consumption by 2025.  … Why was the mandate passed?  The mandate plays a big role in California’s climate goals. Rotting food left in landfills creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas. … Compost is particularly good at retaining water, which could help California farmers during times of drought. 

Aquafornia news Foothills Sun-Gazette

Exeter continues to use well with nitrates

Several weeks after issuing a nitrate warning for groundwater, the city of Exeter is still coming up dry on solutions. With their only alternative well undergoing repairs and tests, Exeter has kept well 6 – the well testing at 11 parts per million (ppm) for nitrates – in production. Municipal wells are allowed to test up to 10 ppm for nitrates according to state mandates. At 11 ppm cities are required to issue notices that the water could be dangerous for infants and women who are pregnant.

Aquafornia news Dana Point Times

In wake of Poseidon desal plant’s denial, South Coast Water looks to fill hole in county’s water portfolio

As the State of California faces a record drought, ocean desalination has been highlighted as a potentially more reliable alternative to imported water. Following the California Coastal Commission’s (CCC) unanimous vote to deny permits for the Brookfield-Poseidon Desalination plant in Huntington Beach last month, the South Coast Water District (SCWD) is working to obtain all major permits for its own desalination plant near Doheny by the end of the year. The local water district is looking to produce up to five million gallons of potable drinking water a day by 2027 through its proposed Doheny Ocean Desalination project. 

Aquafornia news Sonoma Index-Tribune

Water districts race to protect groundwater amid drought

Groundwater in the Sonoma Valley basin has declined approximately 900 acres of water per year from 2012 to 2018, fueled in part by the drought and a “general upward trend in groundwater use” … Streams and small ponds have dried up during stretches of drought in recent years. The largest declines in groundwater can be seen in the areas of the El Verano and Eighth Street East … where a deep aquifer is losing water quicker than other parts of the region. The deep aquifer is of concern because it takes longer to recharge than shallow ones.

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Aquafornia news Eastern Municipal Water District

News release: EMWD dedicates third desalination facility

Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) today celebrated the opening of its new groundwater desalination facility, which will provide additional local water supply reliability to its service area for future generations. The Perris II Desalination Facility is EMWD’s third groundwater desalter and will provide enough water for more than 15,000 households each year through its reverse osmosis treatment process. The facility is located in Menifee, adjacent to the existing Menifee I and Perris I desalters.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kern County reverses course on ag well permitting

In a complete turnaround from its stance earlier this week, Kern County late Thursday dropped its requirement that groundwater agencies make certain findings about proposed new agricultural wells before it would consider issuing permits for those wells. The situation had reached a boiling point in the local ag community as the Kern County Environmental Health Department had not issued a single permit for a new or replacement ag well since April 6. The department has 16 pending ag well applications.

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As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: More than half of the most critically overdrawn basins, mainly in the San Joaquin Valley, are racing against a July deadline to retool their plans and avoid state intervention

A field in Kern County is irrigated by sprinkler.Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance. It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Click here to register!

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833
Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

Travel along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Click here to register!

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720

Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 12
Check out our monthly events calendar for details on this course and other water events in California

Photo of groundwater gushing into a percolation basin An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by University of California, Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 12, 19, 26 and June 2, 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.

New EPA Regional Administrator Tackles Water Needs with a Wealth of Experience and $1 Billion in Federal Funding
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Martha Guzman says surge of federal dollars offers 'greatest opportunity' to address longstanding water needs, including for tribes & disadvantaged communities in EPA Region 9

EPA Region 9 Administrator Martha Guzman.Martha Guzman recalls those awful days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible time.”

She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely greatest opportunity.”

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

Central Valley Tour participants at a dam.This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

This tour guided participants on a virtual exploration of the Sacramento River and its tributaries and learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law By Gary Pitzer

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: State Water Board report recommends aligning new water rights to an upended hydrology

The American River in Sacramento in 2014 shows the effects of the 2012-2016 drought. Climate change is expected to result in more frequent and intense droughts and floods. As California’s seasons become warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of the state’s water supply.

A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing climate could require existing rights holders to curtail diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Groundwater Management Requirements Spark Innovative Approaches to Reach Sustainability
A 'Craigslist' for water, flooding farms to feed the aquifer, and turning farmland into habitat to aid wildlife and groundwater

An example of a water-trading platform in Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County.

The San Joaquin Valley has a big hill to climb in reaching groundwater sustainability. Driven by the need to keep using water to irrigate the nation’s breadbasket while complying with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, people throughout the valley are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to manage and use groundwater more wisely. Here are three examples.

Western Water By Gary Pitzer

Explainer: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: The Law, The Judge And The Enforcer

The Resource

A groundwater pump in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the water in California for urban, rural and agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can be replenished through natural or artificial means.

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.


Water Leaders Alumni: Stay In Touch With Each Other and The Foundation
Join LinkedIn alumni group for networking, program news and more!

Since 1997, more than 430 engineers, farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and others have graduated from our William R. Gianelli Water Leaders program. We’ve developed a new alumni network webpage to help program participants connect and keep in touch.


Join Online Groundwater Short Course Starting May 21st
See our events calendar for details & register today!

An online short course starting Thursday will provide registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.

The class, offered by UC Davis and several other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education Foundation, will be held May 21 and 28, June 4, 18, and 25 from 9 a.m. to noon.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

With Sustainability Plans Filed, Groundwater Agencies Now Must Figure Out How To Pay For Them
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: California's Prop. 218 taxpayer law and local politics could complicate efforts to finance groundwater improvement projects

A groundwater monitoring well in Colusa County, north of Sacramento. The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.

Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

Foundation Event

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
Virtual Workshop Occurred Afternoons of April 22-23

Our Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the workshop was held as an engaging online event on the afternoons of Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Foundation Event University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Jenn Bowles Nick Gray

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond

The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water. 

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817

Agenda Posted for Oct. 30 Water Summit; Join the Waitlist!
Keynote speakers include California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Scripps Atmospheric River Researcher Marty Ralph

A diverse roster of top policymakers and water experts are on the agenda for the Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit. The conference, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, will feature compelling conversations reflecting on upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

Tickets for the Water Summit are sold out, but by joining the waitlist we can let you know when spaces open via cancellations.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Gary Pitzer

Recharging Depleted Aquifers No Easy Task, But It’s Key To California’s Water Supply Future
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: A UC Berkeley symposium explores approaches and challenges to managed aquifer recharge around the West

A water recharge basin in Southern California's Coachella Valley. To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.

Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.


Water Summit Panel to Focus on Nexus of Fire and Water in the Wildland-Urban Interface
Oct. 30 Event Will Feature the Latest on Policy, Planning and Management from Key Stakeholders, Experts

California experienced one of the most deadly and destructive wildfire years on record in 2018, with several major fires occurring in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). These areas, where communities are in close proximity to undeveloped land at high risk of wildfire, have felt devastating effects of these disasters, including direct impacts to water infrastructure and supplies.

One panel at our 2019 Water Summit Oct. 30 in Sacramento will feature speakers from water agencies who came face-to-face with two major fires: The Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise in Northern California, and the Woolsey Fire in the Southern California coastal mountains. They’ll talk about their experiences and what lessons they learned. 

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

Often Short of Water, California’s Southern Central Coast Builds Toward A Drought-Proof Supply
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Water agencies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo counties look to seawater, recycled water to protect against water shortages

The spillway at Lake Cachuma in central Santa Barbara County. Drought in 2016 plunged its storage to about 8 percent of capacity.The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.

Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.


Scripps Scientist Marty Ralph to Discuss Atmospheric Rivers in Opening Keynote at Water Summit
Early bird pricing ends today for the 2019 Water Summit “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning"

Oroville Dam spillway emergencyAtmospheric rivers, the narrow bands of moisture that ferry precipitation across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast, are necessary to keep California’s water reservoirs full.

However, some of them are dangerous because the extreme rainfall and wind can cause catastrophic flooding and damage, much like what happened in 2017 with Oroville Dam’s spillway.

Learn the latest about atmospheric river research and forecasting at our 2019 Water Summit on Oct. 30 in Sacramento, where prominent research meteorologist Marty Ralph will give the opening keynote.


Oct. 30 Water Summit to Feature Panel About Key Groundwater Issues as SGMA Deadline Approaches
Attend and learn how water managers are working toward sustainable groundwater management in California

With a key deadline for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in January, one of the featured panels at our Oct. 30th  Water Summit will focus on how regions around California are crafting groundwater sustainability plans and working on innovative ways to fill aquifers.

The theme for this year’s Water Summit, “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflects critical upcoming events in California water, including the imminent Jan. 31, 2020 deadline for groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in high- and medium-priority basins.


Stay Up To Date With Upcoming Groundwater Events Via Our Calendar
We track relevant tours, symposia, conferences and more for your convenience

Our event calendar is an excellent resource for keeping up with water events in California and the West.

Groundwater is top of mind for many water managers as they prepare to meet next January’s deadline for submitting sustainability plans required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We have several upcoming featured events listed on our calendar that focus on a variety of relevant groundwater topics:


Registration Now Open for the 36th Annual Water Summit; Take Advantage of Early Bird Discount by Registering Today
Join us Oct. 30 for key conversations on water in California and the West

Registration opens today for the Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning, reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to water management as California and the West weather intensified flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss event, visit our Water Summit event page.

Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee, materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches with key people in the water world.

Western Water California Water Map

Your Don’t-Miss Roundup of Summer Reading From Western Water

Dear Western Water reader, 

Clockwise, from top: Lake Powell, on a drought-stressed Colorado River; Subsidence-affected bridge over the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley;  A homeless camp along the Sacramento River near Old Town Sacramento; Water from a desalination plant in Southern California.Summer is a good time to take a break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting a chance to do plenty of that this July.

But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned for later this year, we want to help you catch up on Western Water stories from the first half of this year that you might have missed. 


2019 Water Summit Theme Announced – Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning
Join us October 30 in Sacramento for our premier annual event

Sacramento RiverOur 36th annual Water Summit, happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in the face of natural disasters.

The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on issues affecting water across California and the West.

Western Water California Water Map Gary Pitzer

California’s New Natural Resources Secretary Takes on Challenge of Implementing Gov. Newsom’s Ambitious Water Agenda
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Wade Crowfoot addresses Delta tunnel shift, Salton Sea plan and managing water amid a legacy of conflict

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Secretary.One of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.

That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach” on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Flood Management Gary Pitzer

Southern California Water Providers Think Local in Seeking to Expand Supplies
WESTERN WATER SIDEBAR: Los Angeles and San Diego among agencies pursuing more diverse water portfolio beyond imports

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination Plant in Carlsbad last December marked 40 billion gallons of drinking water delivered to San Diego County during its first three years of operation. The desalination plant provides the county with more than 50 million gallons of water each day.Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.

In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)

Western Water Groundwater Education Bundle Gary Pitzer

Imported Water Built Southern California; Now Santa Monica Aims To Wean Itself Off That Supply
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Santa Monica is tapping groundwater, rainwater and tighter consumption rules to bring local supply and demand into balance

The Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) treats dry weather urban runoff to remove pollutants such as sediment, oil, grease, and pathogens for nonpotable use.Imported water from the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on imported water.

Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s, Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.

Key California Ag Region Ponders What’s Next After Voters Spurn Bond to Fix Sinking Friant-Kern Canal
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Subsidence chokes off up to 60% of canal’s capacity to move water to aid San Joaquin Valley farms and depleted groundwater basins

Water is up to the bottom of a bridge crossing the Friant-Kern Canal due to subsidence caused by overpumping of groundwater. The whims of political fate decided in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the 152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

Women Leading in Water, Colorado River Drought and Promising Solutions — Western Water Year in Review

Dear Western Water readers:

Women named in the last year to water leadership roles (clockwise, from top left): Karla Nemeth, director, California Department of Water Resources; Gloria Gray,  chair, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; Brenda Burman, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner; Jayne Harkins,  commissioner, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. and Mexico; Amy Haas, executive director, Upper Colorado River Commission.The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.

These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.

We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Western Water California Water Map Layperson's Guide to the State Water Project Gary Pitzer

As He Steps Aside, Tim Quinn Talks About ‘Adversarialists,’ Collaboration and Hope For Solving the State’s Tough Water Issues
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Tim Quinn, retiring executive director of Association of California Water Agencies

ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn  with a report produced by Association of California Water Agencies on  sustainable groundwater management.  (Source:  Association of California Water Agencies)In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.

Western Water Klamath River Watershed Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

California Leans Heavily on its Groundwater, But Will a Court Decision Tip the Scales Against More Pumping?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Pumping near the Scott River in Siskiyou County sparks appellate court ruling extending public trust doctrine to groundwater connected to rivers

Scott River, in Siskiyou County. In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.

Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.

Northern California Tour 2019
Field Trip - October 2-4

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.

Water 101 Workshop: The Basics and Beyond
One-day workshop included optional groundwater tour

One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop details the history, geography, legal and political facets of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the state.

Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural resources.

 Optional Groundwater Tour

On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater experts Thomas Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Western Water Douglas E. Beeman Douglas E. Beeman

What Would You Do About Water If You Were California’s Next Governor?
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Survey at Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit elicits a long and wide-ranging potential to-do list

There’s going to be a new governor in California next year – and a host of challenges both old and new involving the state’s most vital natural resource, water.

So what should be the next governor’s water priorities?

That was one of the questions put to more than 150 participants during a wrap-up session at the end of the Water Education Foundation’s Sept. 20 Water Summit in Sacramento.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Vexed by Salt And Nitrates In Central Valley Groundwater, Regulators Turn To Unusual Coalition For Solutions
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Left unaddressed, salts and nitrates could render farmland unsuitable for crops and family well water undrinkable

An evaporation pond in Kings County, in the central San Joaquin Valley, with salt encrusted on the soil. More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.

An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Could the Arizona Desert Offer California and the West a Guide to Solving Groundwater Problems?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Environmental Defense Fund report highlights strategies from Phoenix and elsewhere for managing demands on groundwater

Skyline of Phoenix, ArizonaAs California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.

Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Novel Effort to Aid Groundwater on California’s Central Coast Could Help Other Depleted Basins
WESTERN WATER Q&A: Michael Kiparsky, director of UC Berkeley's Wheeler Water Institute, explains Pajaro Valley groundwater recharge pilot project

Michael KiparskySpurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.

Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.


Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Western Water California Water Bundle Gary Pitzer

Statewide Water Bond Measures Could Have Californians Doing a Double-Take in 2018
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK: Two bond measures, worth $13B, would aid flood preparation, subsidence, Salton Sea and other water needs

San Joaquin Valley bridge rippled by subsidence  California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.

Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Northern California Tour 2018

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway. 


San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2018

Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

Fishery worker capturing a fish in the San Joaquin River.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Replenishment

Groundwater replenishment happens through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water conservation, recycled water, desalination and water transfers.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Enhancing California’s Water Supply: The Drive for New Storage
Spring 2017

One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.

In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.

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Snowmelt and runoff near the California Department of Water Resources snow survey site in the Sierra Nevada east of Sacramento.Runoff is the water that is pulled by gravity across land’s surface, replenishing groundwater and surface water as it percolates into an aquifer or moves into a river, stream or watershed.

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Sinkholes are caused by erosion of rocks beneath soil’s surface. Groundwater dissolves soft rocks such as gypsum, salt and limestone, leaving gaps in the originally solid structure. This is exacerbated when water is acidic from contact with carbon dioxide or acid rain. Even humidity can play a major role in destabilizing water underground. 

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Irrigation is the artificial supply of water to grow crops or plants. Obtained from either surface or groundwater, it optimizes agricultural production when the amount of rain and where it falls is insufficient. Different irrigation systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in practical use are often combined. Much of the agriculture in California and the West relies on irrigation. 

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The United States Geographical Survey (USGS) defines freshwater as containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids. However, 500 milligrams per liter is usually the cutoff for municipal and commercial use. Most of the Earth’s water is saline, 97.5 percent with only 2.5 percent fresh.

Aquapedia background


Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly into other water bodies. They can also be considered the consequence of an overflowing aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.

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Potable Water

Photo of drinking water filling a glass over the kitchen sink. Potable water, also known as drinking water, comes from surface and ground sources and is treated to levels that that meet state and federal standards for consumption.

Water from natural sources is treated for microorganisms, bacteria, toxic chemicals, viruses and fecal matter. Drinking raw, untreated water can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or fever.


Discover Hidden World of Subsidence on Upcoming Groundwater Tour
Early bird discount expires Tuesday

Extensometers are among the most valuable devices hydrogeologists use to measure subsidence, but most people – even water professionals – have never seen one. They are sensitive and carefully calibrated, so they are kept under lock and key and are often in remote locations on private property.

During our California Groundwater Tour Oct. 5-6, you will see two types of extensometers used by the California Department of Water Resources to monitor changes in elevation caused by groundwater overdraft.

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Mojave River

Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding from extreme weather events like El Niño

Aquapedia background


Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body.  Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff (as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

A man watches as a groundwater pump pours water onto a field in Northern California.A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.

SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.”

Western Water Magazine

The View From Above: The Promise of Remote Sensing
March/April 2015

This issue looks at remote sensing applications and how satellite information enables analysts to get a better understanding of snowpack, how much water a plant actually uses, groundwater levels, levee stability and more.


The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
A Handbook to Understanding and Implementing the Law

This handbook provides crucial background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook also includes a section on options for new governance.


Southern California Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

Diamond Valley Lake. Photo by MWD

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled through Inland Southern California to learn about the region’s efforts in groundwater management, recycled water and other drought-proofing measures.


Groundwater Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled from the Sacramento region to Napa Valley to view sites that explore groundwater issues. Topics  included groundwater quality, overdraft and subsidence, agricultural use, wells, and regional management efforts.


Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.

Western Water Magazine

Overdrawn at the Bank: Managing California’s Groundwater
January/February 2014

This printed issue of Western Water looks at California groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by local, regional and state management. For more background information on groundwater please refer to the Founda­tion’s Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater management and the extent to which stakeholders believe more efforts are needed to preserve and restore the resource.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

The story of water is the story of California. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

The story of California is the story of water. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.

Western Water Magazine

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Quality: A Cause for Concern?
September/October 2012

This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.


New Director’s Packet

Newly elected to your local water board? Or city council? Or state Legislature? This packet of materials provides you with the valuable background information you need – and at a special price!

Western Water Magazine

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

This printed issue of Western Water examines groundwater banking, a water management strategy with appreciable benefits but not without challenges and controversy.

Western Water Magazine

Viewing Water with a Wide Angle Lens: A Roundtable Discussion
January/February 2013

This printed issue of Western Water features a roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western Water Magazine

Changing the Status Quo: The 2009 Water Package
January/February 2010

This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater monitoring and the proposed water bond.

Western Water Magazine

Desalination: A Drought Proof Supply?
July/August 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines desalination – an issue that is marked by great optimism and controversy – and the expected role it might play as an alternative water supply strategy.

Western Water Magazine

A Tale of Two Rivers: The Russian and the Santa Ana
May/June 2009

This printed issue of Western Water examines the Russian and Santa Ana rivers – areas with ongoing issues not dissimilar to the rest of the state – managing supplies within a lingering drought, improving water quality and revitalizing and restoring the vestiges of the native past.

Western Water Magazine

Dealing with the ‘D’ Word: The Response to Drought
November/December 2008

This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought – its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should it arrive.

Western Water Magazine

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Statewide, groundwater provides about 30 percent of California’s water supply, with some regions more dependent on it than others. In drier years, groundwater provides a higher percentage of the water supply. Groundwater is less known than surface water but no less important. Its potential for helping to meet the state’s growing water demand has spurred greater attention toward gaining a better understanding of its overall value. This issue of Western Water examines groundwater storage and its increasing importance in California’s future water policy.

Western Water Magazine

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
July/August 2003

This issue of Western Water examines the issue of California groundwater management, in light of recent attention focused on the subject through legislative actions and the release of the draft Bulletin 118. In addition to providing an overview of groundwater and management options, it offers a glimpse of what the future may hold and some background information on groundwater hydrology and law.


A Climate of Change: Water Adaptation Strategies

This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an excellent overview of climate change and how it is already affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are underway to plan and adapt to climate.


Stormwater Management: Turning Runoff into a Resource

20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater, and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource through various activities.


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (60-minute DVD)

Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from, how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress Wendie Malick. 


Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst (30-minute DVD)

A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water: Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to households throughout the state.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.


Go With the Flow: A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Message

This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12 about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.

Maps & Posters Groundwater Education Bundle

California Groundwater Map
Redesigned in 2017

California Groundwater poster map

Fashioned after the popular California Water Map, this 24×36 inch poster was extensively re-designed in 2017 to better illustrate the value and use of groundwater in California, the main types of aquifers, and the connection between groundwater and surface water.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Recycling
Updated 2013

As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge and industrial uses.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing
Updated 2005

The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides background information on water rights, types of transfers and critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in 1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River transfers and the role of private companies in California’s developing water market. 

Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.


Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.


Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management
Published 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background information on the principles of IRWM, its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water management approach.


Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 


Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water
Published 2006

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada. It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and today’s water supply challenges.

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Seawater Intrusion

Seawater intrusion can harm groundwater quality in a variety of places, both coastal and inland, throughout California.

Along the coast, seawater intrusion into aquifers is connected to overdrafting of groundwater. Additionally, in the interior, groundwater pumping can draw up salty water from ancient seawater isolated in subsurface sediments.

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Pollutants and Groundwater

barrel half-buried in the ground, posing a threat to groundwater.

The natural quality of groundwater in California depends on the surrounding geology and on the source of water that recharges the aquifer.

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Overdraft occurs when, over a period of years, more water is pumped from a groundwater basin than is replaced from all sources – such as rainfall, irrigation water, streams fed by mountain runoff and intentional recharge. [See also Hydrologic Cycle.]

While many of its individual aquifers are not overdrafted, California as a whole uses more groundwater than is replaced.

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Groundwater Treatment

The treatment of groundwater— the primary source of drinking water and irrigation water in many parts of the United States — varies from community to community, and even from well to well within a city depending on what contaminants the water contains.

In California, one-half of the state’s population drinks water drawn from underground sources [the remainder is provided by surface water].

Groundwater Management

Groundwater pump in California's Central ValleyGroundwater management is recognized as critical to supporting the long-term viability of California’s aquifers and protecting the nearby surface waters that are connected to groundwater.

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Groundwater Legislation

California has considered, but not implemented, a comprehensive groundwater strategy many times over the last century.

One hundred years ago, the California Conservation Commission considered adding  groundwater regulation into the Water Commission Act of 1913.  After hearings were held, it was decided to leave groundwater rights out of the Water Code.

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Groundwater Law

California, like most arid Western states, has a complex system of surface water rights that accounts for nearly all of the water in rivers and streams.

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Groundwater Banking

An aerial view of a groundwater bank

Groundwater banking is a process of diverting floodwaters or other surface water into an aquifer where it can be stored until it is needed later. In a twist of fate, the space made available by emptying some aquifers opened the door for the banking activities used so extensively today.

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Groundwater Adjudication

When multiple parties withdraw water from the same aquifer, groundwater pumpers can ask the court to adjudicate, or hear arguments for and against, to better define the rights that various entities have to use groundwater resources. This is known as  groundwater adjudication. [See also California water rights and Groundwater Law.]

Aquapedia background Layperson's Guide to Groundwater


Groundwater pump in a Northern California farm field.

California’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.

Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply.

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Conjunctive Use

Conjunctive use is a catch-phrase for coordinated use of surface water and groundwater— literally going with the flow to maximize sufficient yield.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Preserving Quantity and Quality: Groundwater Management in California
May/June 2011

For something so largely hidden from view, groundwater is an important and controversial part of California’s water supply picture. How it should be managed and whether it becomes part of overarching state regulation is a topic of strong debate.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Saving it For Later: Groundwater Banking
July/August 2010

In early June, environmentalists and Delta water agencies sued the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Kern County Water Agency (KCWA) over the validity of the transfer of the Kern Water Bank, a huge underground reservoir that supplies water to farms and cities locally and outside the area. The suit, which culminates a decade-long controversy involving multiple issues of state and local jurisdictional authority, has put the spotlight on groundwater banking – an important but controversial water management practice in many areas of California.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

An Expanded Role for Groundwater Storage
September/October 2007

Groundwater, out of sight and out of mind to most people, is taking on an increased role in California’s water future.

Often overlooked and misunderstood, groundwater’s profile is being elevated as various scenarios combine to cloud the water supply outlook. A dry 2006-2007 water year (downtown Los Angeles received a record low amount of rain), crisis conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the mounting evidence of climate change have invigorated efforts to further utilize aquifers as a reliable source of water supply.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

California Groundwater: Managing A Hidden Resource
Jul/Aug 2003

When you drink the water, remember the spring. – Chinese proverb

Water is everywhere. Viewed from outer space, the Earth radiates a blue glow from the oceans that dominate its surface. Atop the sea and land, huge clouds of water vapor swirl around the globe, propelling the weather system that sustains life. Along the way, water, which an ancient sage called “the noblest of elements,” transforms from vapor to liquid and to solid form as it falls from the atmosphere to the surface, trickles below ground and ultimately returns skyward.

Western Water Excerpt Sue McClurgRita Schmidt Sudman

Conjunctive Use: Banking for a Dry Day
July/Aug 2001

Traditionally treated as two separate resources, surface water and groundwater are increasingly linked in California as water leaders search for a way to close the gap between water demand and water supply. Although some water districts have coordinated use of surface water and groundwater for years, conjunctive use has become the catchphrase when it comes to developing additional water supply for the 21st century.